October 4, 2014

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Premiere Review: “Survivor’s Remorse”


SURVIVOR’S REMORSE:  Saturday 9PM on Starz

Because Starz only airs one scripted show at a given time, its identity tends to shift with whatever that series happens to be.  Recently it’s been fluctuating in an almost schizophrenic way between contemporary big-city stories and costume dramas:  from Boss to DaVinci’s Demons, from Power to Black Sails, and now from Outlander to the new SURVIVOR’S REMORSE.   The latter is also one of the network’s rare comedies, and as such it’s milder than its urban companions–and even than Entourage, its obvious forebear.

The world this time is NBA basketball instead of Hollywood, and the show’s fictionalized model is no less than Executive Producer LeBron James.  His stand-in is Cam Calloway (Jessie Usher), a star who’s just signed his first big free-agent contract, propelling him into the world of super-wealth, along with a move to his new team in Atlanta.  (Survivor’s Remorse is one of the few shows to shoot in Georgia because of its tax benefits and actually be set there.)  Like Entourage‘s Vincent Chase, Cam is surrounded by trusted figures from his youth, although in Cam’s case they’re also family:  his cousin Reggie (RonReaco Lee ), mother Cassie (Tichina Arnold), sister M-Chuck (Erica Ash), and uncle Julius (Mike Epps).

Despite the similarities to Entourage, Survivor’s Remorse has a markedly different feel.  Although James is the presiding spirit here, the series has been created by Mike O’Malley (better known as an actor, with major recurring roles in Glee and Justified among his credits), and Survivor’s isn’t all that concerned with in-jokes and industry gossip, or even with sports in general.  Basketball is strictly in the background of the pilot, written by O’Malley and directed by Ken Whittingham, and there’s a notable absence of celebrity cameos.  While Cam and his family are delighted by the new money coming into all their lives, they’re less cynical about it than Vince and his friends, and although Cam and Reggie bicker, and he has a genuine fight with his sister when Reggie recommends putting her and the rest of the group on salary to perform genuine jobs, there’s more emotion behind it (M-Chuck was instrumental in raising Cam) than greed or entitlement.

Even the central plot situation of the pilot tries to find some heart:  when another old friend of Cam’s from their Boston neighborhood–one who’s been left behind–gets his hands on some of Cam’s boyhood mementos, and they include embarrassments like a sexually explicit diary and a VHS tape featuring Cam smoking pot and riffing on Chinese people and food in a racist way, he blackmails Cam.  But he only does it to pay off a local loanshark who’s threatening him and his young son, and when Cam pays him off, he does so with some of the guilt expressed in the show’s title about getting out when others haven’t.

At least in the pilot, the mix of comedy and serious feeling isn’t always even, and the attempts to jazz up the visuals with split-screens try too hard.  There’s a promising aspirational thread here, though, and the cast is sharp, particularly RonReaco and Ash.  The series, which has a very short 6-episode order, may not have time to develop very much beyond its basic premise, but it makes a likable rookie impression.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."